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Growing advice from social media star Joe Harrison!

25th March 2020

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Missed our social media takeover with Grow With Joe? Don’t panic! You can catch-up here

On Tuesday 24th March, self-confessed gardening addict, garden writer and social media star Joe Harrison (aka grow_with_Joe) took over Grow Your Own’s social media accounts for the entire day! Joe shared his favourite fruits and veggies to grow, what he’s growing in the garden now as well as loads of great gardening tips and tricks!

Broad beans

Broad beans were the first veggies we ever grew on our plot so I have a real soft spot for them AND they’re really yummy, too.

They’re a really low-maintenance, hardy crop, so are great for beginner (and more experienced) gardeners to have a go at growing.

Depending on the variety, your plants will need just a little support to ensure that they don’t topple over when the stems are covered with pods filled with delicious broad beans.

You may find your plants are a magnet for blackfly who are very partial to broad beans. But don’t fret, it shouldn’t affect your crop if you act quickly.
These greedy pests love new, soft shoot tips; so if you remove the new shoots from the centre stem, it will reduce your blackfly infestation. In addition, you can use your garden hose or a damp cloth to remove these sap sucking pests, too.

You can sow your broad beans directly right now until the end of April (and even into May with some varieties), meaning they’re perfect for successional sowing so you can have a continuous supply throughout the season.

If you’re in a particularly cold area, don’t worry, just sow your seeds indoors and plant them out when the conditions improve.

One final and very important tip: don’t forget to keep picking those pods as this will keep your plants producing; the more you pick, the more pods you’ll have!

Rainbow chard

Growing from seed is always exciting but even more so when it’s something you haven’t grown before.

Seeing the vibrant, almost neon colours of rainbow chard growing on neighbouring plots has always brought a smile to my face and I’ve said to myself for a few years that we were going to grow our own but we have never got round to it…... until now!

We’ve gone for a variety called Bright Lights which we’re sowing in the greenhouse using plastic trays we saved from the recycling bin. You can actually sow these seeds directly in your garden or allotment right now until the end of July (as long as your soil isn’t waterlogged). This stunning biannual can be enjoyed throughout the summer and if left in the ground at the end of the season, will produce new shoots for an early spring harvest next year which is fantastic.

I’m so glad we’ve finally got the chance to grow our own chard and I can’t wait to see this injection of colour on our plot!

Sweet peas

Looking back at my previous posts, I’ve realised I say “this is my favourite” quite a lot BUT….sweet peas definitely are my favourite flowers to grow! Their unbelievable scent stops me in my tracks every time I brush past them; they’re a must grow for us each year on our plot.

We sow our first batch of seeds in late autumn in an unheated greenhouse, allowing them to grow slowly, ensuring we get a little burst of colour in early spring.

However, don’t worry if you didn’t get round to sowing yours in the autumn: you can sow them from March right up until May, you’ll just have to wait a little longer for your flowers.

If you’re starting your seeds off indoors, be sure to sow in something tall as their roots like a little room to spread out in. Used toilet roll tubes are perfect for this or we use reusable plastic pint glasses which work really well too.

When your seedlings are around 10cm tall it’s time to ‘pinch them out’. It’s really easy and your plants will thank you for it later. Simply take your index finger and thumb (or you can use scissors if you prefer) and quite literally, pinch/remove the growing tip from the main stem. I realise this sounds a little brutal, like you’re damaging a healthy plant for no reason, but bear with me… By doing this, it will stop your plants becoming tall and leggy and also stimulate the plant into producing more side shoots meaning you’ll have stronger plants with lots more growth which results in more flowers.

Once your plants are big enough to be planted out they’ll need some support; securing your plants with string to a simple frame of bamboo canes will do the trick.

Keep your plants really well-watered and most importantly keep cutting the flowers; the more you cut, the more your plants will produce.

These gorgeous flowers are so rewarding and really easy to grow, in fact you’ll probably find the hardest thing about growing them is keeping up with cutting those incredible flowers!

Potatoes

It’s great to experiment with what you grow each year on your allotment or garden but there are certain vegetables you just have to grow year after year and potatoes are definitely one of them!

The variety you grow, the time of year you plant, and to chit or not to chit, will all be decisions which will differ for each gardener.

If you’re a new gardener, understanding the difference between earlies, second earlies and main crop potatoes (and when to actually plant them!) can be tricky. If you’re unsure, the best advice is to simply ask. Your fellow plot holders or neighbours have a wealth of knowledge and experience and will know when the best time is to plant your potatoes for your soil type, location and conditions.

I spoke to a really experienced gardener on our allotment site when we took on our plot which is why our potatoes go in the ground mid to late March.

This year we’re growing Rooster and Maris Piper which are tried and tested varieties for us.

We plant our potatoes in rows, using a bulb planter to make a hole for each seed potato. Then using a ridging hoe, we ‘hill up’ the soil along each row, creating more growing space for the potatoes to grow into resulting in a higher yield.

Top tip: when you’ve made your hills/mounds, flatten the top so it’s more volcano shaped, this will encourage water to penetrate through the soil to the roots and will stop the water cascading down the sloping sides.

If you don’t have a large growing space but still want to grow your own yummy spuds, don’t worry, you still can! Potatoes grow really well in bags and containers. Just remember to make sure they have lots of drainage and they’re really well-watered.

Have a go yourself because it’s always fun for kids (and us grown-ups) when it’s time to go digging for that yummy treasure!

Tomatoes

You can’t beat the taste of homegrown tomatoes. With so many varieties of all different shapes, sizes and colours, the trickiest thing about growing them can be deciding which ones to choose.

Ask a group of gardeners what their favourite varieties of tomato are to grow and you’ll probably get very different answers.

We grow a varied selection of tomatoes, from cherry tomatoes; perfect for the kids to snack on straight from the plant, Italian plum tomatoes perfect for sauces and beefsteak varieties which when sliced, cry out for a drizzle of oil and a pinch of sea salt flakes.

For most of us, March is the month we (very) patiently wait for before we start sowing our tomato seeds.

Once matured, our plants will be moved into a greenhouse but don’t worry if you don’t have a greenhouse, your tomato plants will be more than happy in 30cm pots placed in a sunny sheltered spot outside.

If you’re growing a cordon variety (tall plants with one main stem and single trusses/branches), heavy fruits will cause your plants to topple over so they will need to be supported which you can do by tying the main stem to a cane using string.
Also, when growing cordon tomatoes you’ll need to remove the side shoots/suckers which grow (seemingly appearing over night!) between the main stem and the trusses. Simply snap them off using your index finger and thumb. (Don’t worry about doing this if you’re growing a bush variety). Top tip: just incase you don’t have enough tomato plants already, you can pop the side shoots you remove into water & they will start to grow roots in no time at all…...and hey presto; new plants.

Be consistent with your watering and when you start to see flowers appearing, begin feeding your plants using a liquid tomato feed which we normally do once every 2 weeks.

Tomato plants are a little high maintenance, requiring a touch more attention than some of your other crops, but bite into one of those ripe, delicious, juicy fruits and it makes the extra effort all worth it!

Want to see more from Joe Harrison? Follow his Instagram here and his Twitter here

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